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Revisiting the Global Problem Solving Consortium

Revisiting the Global Problem Solving Consortium

I’ve written on this before, but the project is gaining momentum so an update may be in order.

The idea of the consortium stems from several impulses: first, improving levels of global awareness for students; second and more specifically, turning universities more explicitly toward exploring and possibly even alleviating various global problems; and third, as part of both of the above, to provide greater opportunities for exploring regional differences in approaches toward global issues—the “local” part of the familiar local/global equation.

We’ve formed a group of schools, with partners from China, Turkey, South Korea, Brazil, India, Kenya and Russia, and have been exploring practical ways we can advance the purposes that, broadly at least, we all agree upon. This summer an initial group of undergraduates—at least one from each partner—will meet at Mason for two weeks for a course on managing water resources. This is the first step toward really involving students.

We’ve also prepared a short MOOC, introducing the idea of the consortium and briefly exploring four global issues—environmental politics, conflict resolution, global obesity, and human rights. Each segment is initially presented by a Mason faculty member, but we’re hoping that colleagues from other partner institutions will quickly contribute to add problem areas, but above all to present the regional vantage points. An initial sounding last week at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow elicited genuine interest, including plans to add segments and also to utilize the MOOC in an introductory world economy survey class.

Growing enthusiasm from several of the partners is, in fact, quite encouraging. We plan a second undergraduate course in the summer of ’14 at the Higher School, and, hopefully, a new meeting of the consortium at that point as well. We’ll also be discussing some graduate-level connections this summer.

And we’re very hopeful that the consortium can develop some joint courses and undergraduate research projects to flesh out the goals as well. Here too, initial collaborations between Mason and the Higher School have been very fruitful, and we’re discussing expanding the range.

So we’re off and running, with help from faculty and, soon, students at the various institutions. Looks like it’s a good idea, maybe even a very good idea—and further thoughts are always welcome.